From concrete to jungle: Your nature escapes in Joburg

Carina Greeff
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Big city life - even though it is a loved lifestyle in its own, everyone can do with a break from rush hour traffic, towering skyscrapers and a daily dose of pollution.

Something many might not know about our dear Jozi is that it is the largest man-made forest or 'urban jungle' in the world with roughly 10 million trees in its parks and streets.

Surprize surprize, Cape Town! Your escape to Jozi will provide a bigger nature fix than you might have thought!

Within Johannesburg itself, locals and visitors can retreat to an array of parks and gardens to escape the city... in the city.

1. Kloofendal

The Roodepoort area is home to many nature escapes and the Kloofendal Nature Reserve provides a unique weekend getaway for day visitors and campers. 

The Reserve opens its gates for night visitors on Saturdays with their Family Campouts, so you can pitch your tent for an extended visit.

Things to do: There is a stone amphitheatre with picnic and ablution facilities, walking trails of various distances, and a dam with a hide. The reserve is also known for being the frst Johannesburg gold mine and tours can be arranged. Click here to view the Kloofendal hiking map. 

Things to see: Small mammals such as duiker, mountain reedbuck, dassie, mongoose, hedgehog, black-backed jackal, mole rat, gerbil and more.

Contact: Visit their website or call 011 760 9143.

2. Suikerbosrand

In the Heidelberg area you will find the massive Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. It is strange to think that an hour's drive takes you to SA's busiest city.

Cyclists, hikers and weekenders come to explore the 60km route within the park. A short, 4km interpretive hiking trail and a 17km day trail takes you on a fauna and flora journey not to be found in the city.

Things to do: Hiking, cycling, picnicking and bird watching

Things to see: Spot wildlife like zebra, black wildebeest, red hartebeest mountain reedbuck, common duiker, steenbok, grey duiker, baboon, oribi, blesbok, springbok and kudu. Spot 200 different South African bird species- from there also the name of the reserve.

Cost: R22 per person and R11 per vehicle.

Contact: Visit the website or call 011 439 6300.

3. Hennops River

The Hennops River is a favourite escape among Offroad 4X4 fanatics, mountain bikers and hikers. We know you will want to hang around after the gates close at 17:00 - for you, Hennops River has 'In-bush' accommodation options include a garden cottage or the hadeda camp for hikers. 

Things to do: The picnic spot along the Hennops River has been a go-to retreat since 1928 and is equipped with 2 swimming pools, braai facilities and a quirky suspension bridge. An offroad 4X4 trail with the Donga Lapa provides a great day out for groups. Set 2 - 3 hours aside for the trail and enjoy a braai at the lapa.

Things to see: On the offroad trail, spot blue wildebeest, zebra, kudu, blesbok and other small game species

Cost: R60 for adults and R30 for children under 12 years. Fees include hiking and cycling. The offroad trail is R220 per vehicle.

Contact: Visit the website or contact 082 825 9205.

A photo posted by Alicia Hanekom (@alicia.17) on

4. Melville koppies

Melville Koppies is a Johannesburg City Heritage Site dating back 500 000 years! Indigenous vegetation covers the Koppies, providing a remarkable natural backdrop to the city. The reserve is divided into three areas - Central, East and West.

Things to do: Take on the quartzite cliff in the western park, embrace city views in the eastern park, hike the Kloof in the western park where the Westdene spruit enters the Koppies, take monthly guided tours in the central park (the next one on December 4th - Click here to keep tabs on the calendar) or take the dogs for dog walks in the western park on the first Saturday of every month at 8:00.

Cost: Guided tours are R50 per adult, R20 per child. Dog walks are R30 per person.

Contact: Visit the website or call  011 482 4797.

A photo posted by Yolanda (@yolliepix) on

5. Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Another escape in the Roodeport area is the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden - a member of SANBI. 

In 2015, the Garden has been voted the best place to 'get back to nature in Gauteng' for 9 years in a row and if you pay a visit you will see why.

Things to do: The park frequently host events in the gardens. Upcoming events include a Nature & Macro Photography Excursion on 3 December, Kaya FM Gospel Concert on 4 December and To the Roots on 11 December. Leisurely strolls, picnics, the Eagles Fare Restaurant and The Nursery @ the Garden are also on your itinerary.

ALSO SEE: SA Insider Guide: A festive summer of thrills in Jozi

Things to see: Explore 600+ plant species and a waterfall, where a pair of Verreaux's Eagles are nesting. Reptiles, antelope and jackals can also be seen.

Cost: R30 for adults, R25 for pensioners and students (with valid student card), and R12 for scholars. Entrance is free for children under 6.

Contact: Visit the website or call 086 100 1278 

6. Zoo Lake

Joburg city slickers escape to Zoo Lake for exercise and seasonal events.

Things to do: Visit the well-loved Moyo restaurant for a real Saffa cuisine experience, take leisurely strolls or jogs around the lake, spy on water birds basking in the sun, brave the water in a boat, chill out on the lawns or join a team at the Zoo Lake Sports Club. The best time to visit is between November and March when the park is green and active visitors are keen on getting their summer bodies in shape.

Popular events include the annual Jazz on the Lake and Carols by Candlelight events. The monthly Artists under the Sun open air art exhibition also takes place at Zoo Lake.

Cost: Entrance to the park is free. Additional fees apply for boat rides.

Contact: Visit the website or call 011 712 6600.

7. Johannesburg Botanical Garden and Emmerentia Dam

A popular escape on the city's doorstep is the Botanical garden, providing fun and relaxation for young and old.

Things to do: Running, walking the dogs, picnicking and admiring the the garden. Canoeing is a popular activity on Emmerentia dam which forms part of the gardens. Anglers can even try their luck in catching carp and who ever said you have to stay close to the sea to try your luck with a SUP? Grab a packed picnic basket at the cafe and prepare for some serious unwinding. The park often hosts concerts, movies and events.

Things to see: Be on the look out for the Shakespeare garden, hedge garden, succulent garden, chapel garden, rose garden, herb garden and the arboretum. Enjoy the view over Emmerentia dam and its aquatic birds like geese, dabchicks and moorhens 

Cost: Free

Contact: Visit their website or call 011 782 7064

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